Hevy 2015: My First Festival as a Photographer

Hevy 2015: My First Festival as a Photographer

This year I was lucky enough to get accredited to take photographs at Hevy fest. My first official time being a photographer at a music festival. Sure, by the standards of your Reading and Downloads it isn’t big, but by my cooler than thou punk rock standards getting to shoot at the same festival that some of my favorite bands of all time are playing at is pretty big. I was going to get to shoot some of those bands.

The big dog had arrived.

If by big dog you mean slightly unsure, socially awkward and pretty unprepared small ginger puppy.

Press to Meco // photograph by Calum McMillan
Press to Meco // photograph by Calum McMillan

My initial concern was I would turn up and be “found out”. They’d immediately realise I was bluffing my way through life behind a camera and explain that there’d been some mistake and that I should go home. Thankfully that didn’t happen. The lovely woman at the box office even liked the ridiculous name of my blog. Strong start.

This was soon followed by the total idiocy of packing for every weather eventuality except for the truly glorious sun shine we were presented with. A painfully ginger Scotsman sans sun cream in such weather in the Kent sunshine resulted in some truly spectacular sunburn in record time. My arm finally stopped peeling on the well over a week after the festival.

Landscapes // photograph by Calum McMillan
Landscapes // photograph by Calum McMillan

After a few cautious wanders round the site, a truly excellent cheese filled pancake and the help of some incredibly understanding security guards I was able to find my way to shoot Press to Meco on the second stage. Which turned out to be a great experience, the band were great, I had a lot of space in the pit and the lighting and stage set-up was ideal and my gear did my proud.

The thought began to run through my mind that I could totally do this. It’s no different from a club show. Easy peasy.

Then I went to shoot main stage and the limitations of my own experience and gear became all too clear.

Hacktivist // photograph by Calum McMillan
Hacktivist // photograph by Calum McMillan

I should take a second to explain my gear. Until recently I was a student on a student wage as well as paying off a master’s degree and I’ve never studied photography. So my gear is the gear of an enthusiast with a reasonably limited revenue stream so I shot Hevy fest with:

  • a Canon 650D
  • Canon 50mm 1.8 II
  • Tokina 11-16mm 2.8

Which when it comes to shooting the clubs in Glasgow is a pretty good set up. In fact, shooting the smaller and well-lit tents of Hevy’s second and third stage I felt pretty comfortable with it. Especially when using my ultrawide on the third stage.

Monuments
Monuments // photograph by Calum McMillan

Presented with what I guess was a 10ft tall main stage an ultra-wide and a prime are not exactly ideal. Understandably, I had some pretty serious gear envy over the weekend hanging about my fellow photographers in the pit with their multiple bodies, sweet hair cuts and tremendous pieces of glass.

Coheed & Cambria // photograph by Calum McMillan
Coheed & Cambria // photograph by Calum McMillan

However, I preserved and I was pleasantly surprised with the shots I did pull off. It was a bit of a game changer having to close up my aperture a bit due to the bright sun shine ( a genuine rarity north of the wall ) and the effect that had on my shutter and ISO but I just about got the hang of it by the time I shot Thrice closing the festival on Saturday night. Quick learner right?

Thrice // photograph by Calum McMillan
Thrice // photograph by Calum McMillan

But that was part of the joy of shooting Hevy. It wasn’t just an amazing opportunity, a great time and a chance to see some amazing bands but I learned a lot. For my money, when it comes to photography, or any other creative endeavour, there’s no substitute for having ideas and simply trying them out.

It was constantly challenging: I was in an unfamiliar environment, feeling a tad overwhelmed surrounded by experienced pros and bands that I don’t really feel qualified to be shooting and realising not just the limitations of my gear but my knowledge of how to use it. I loved every second of it.

I’m so grateful to the festival organisers to take the punt on a bearded bespectacled idiot from up north who runs a small blog with no publication weight behind him and giving him a chance to point a camera at some of my favourite bands of all time, and letting me discover some great new artists. That means that my photography literally now lets me travel the country.

How sick is that?

Arcane Roots // photograph by Calum McMillan
Arcane Roots // photograph by Calum McMillan

Also cheers to my fellow photographers at the festival for being such talented and lovely people. I think by Saturday I’d actually spoken to a few of you, despite looking like a 26-year-old man I’m apparently still an incredibly shy 15-year-old boy who doesn’t want to bother anyone, and seeing your work after the festival has been awesome and hugely inspiring. I can’t wait to see more of it.

Hopefully catch you in the pit sometime soon.

Milk Teeth // photograph by Calum McMillan
Milk Teeth // photograph by Calum McMillan

The photo pit that is. I’m far too old and handsome for the mosh pit.

Heck // photograph by Calum McMillan
Heck // photograph by Calum McMillan

 

 

 

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